Republicans think they have a winning issue with the Keystone XL pipeline, even though President Obama has already approved the lower half of it. They think it plays into their depiction of Obama as unwilling to promote domestic energy to lower gas prices, even though domestic oil and gas production has exploded under Obama, and the pipeline would do nothing to aid that with the tar sands oil coming from Canada and just moving to Texas refineries on its way out to sea and the global market.
And so we’ll see a number of other message votes on the pipeline so Republicans can paint their Democratic opponents as having voted “X times” against Keystone XL. The next venue for this message vote? The surface transportation bill.
House Republican leadership will take another crack at forcing approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on legislation extending federal transportation funding for another 90 days.
“American families and small businesses are struggling with high gas prices, and President Obama’s policies are only making things worse,” a House GOP leadership aide said.
“This bill will pave the way for a House-Senate conference to discuss both reforming how taxpayer dollars are spent on federal infrastructure programs, and also meaningful solutions that would address high gas prices and create jobs by permanently removing government barriers to American energy production.”
One interesting part of this is that House Republicans are conceding very early in the game that there will be another short-term extension of the transportation bill, which would be the 9th since the last long-term version expired in 2009. Congress just passed a 90-day extension that goes until June 30. But the House GOP won’t use that time to negotiate on the bipartisan Senate-passed bill, instead just preferring to kick the can for another 90 days. That’s the real news here. Trying to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in the process is just a cherry on this turd sandwich.
And keep in mind, John Boehner once called a long-term surface transportation bill his top legislative priority of 2012. Those days are apparently over.
So now we’ll get another round of charges and counter-charges, of feverishly written emails from environmental groups and stentorian pronouncements from House Republicans about energy and pipelines, none of which will be in any way tethered to reality. The House will pass another extension of the highway bill, perhaps with a forced approval of the pipeline. The President will vow to veto it. Democrats in the Senate will pass a clean extension. Eventually that’s what we’ll get. And with all the ink spilled about the pipeline, nobody will mention that Congress continued its unbroken three-year record of failure on the surface transportation bill. This disables our ability to properly fund roads and bridges and all forms of transportation infrastructure. The political back-and-forth is just noise, but the hidden consequences are grave.
And the separate political shout-fest about domestic energy will be similarly unbound to the truth. As said before, oil and gas production in the US has spiked, and it’s done nothing to reduce gas prices. The natural gas boom has dropped energy prices, at the expense of potable drinking water. But don’t worry: the President just announced a brand-spanking new “Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources.” So we’ll get some recommendations for how to deal with the damage that fracking does to our water supply in, oh, maybe 3-5 years.